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IBM, Local Motors ready to commercialize autonomous bus

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(Read caption) Olli - Local Motors' First Self-Driving Vehicle

Does a bus really need a driver? IBM and crowd-sourcing automotive outfit Local Motors don't think so, as their new Olli concept recently demonstrated on the roads near Washington, DC.

Calling Olli a concept might be a bit misleading, however, since by the end of the year Local Motors and IBM plan to have a fleet of autonomous, on demand buses just like Olli shuttling people around the Maryland side of the National Harbor shopping center along the Potomac River.

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Similar program are set to follow in Miami, Las Vegas and a few other locations around the globe.

What's most unique about Olli isn't that it is an autonomous vehicle without a driver, it is the way that passengers will be able to hop aboard and tell the vehicle their intended destination. From there, Olli's high-tech processor will come up with the best route to its destination.

For now, the tests are limited to a very small area, but IBM and Local Motors say a next-generation model could be capable of driving people around an entire city.

Olli is the first vehicle concept to utilize the processing power behind IBM's Watson Internet of Things, a cloud-based computer system with artificial intelligence. IBM's Watson project is perhaps best-known for beating three Jeopardy champions all the way back in 2010.

This article was first published on MotorAuthority.